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In Re Hitachi Television Optical Block Cases

September 27, 2011

IN RE HITACHI TELEVISION OPTICAL BLOCK CASES


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dana M. Sabraw United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' CERTIFICATION [Docket No. 158]

This Document Relates To: All Actions

RENEWED MOTION FOR CLASS

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' renewed motion for class certification. Defendants Hitachi Home Electronic (America), Inc. ("HHEA"), Hitachi America, Ltd. ("HAL") and Hitachi Ltd. ("HL") filed an opposition to the motion, and Plaintiffs submitted a reply. Having carefully considered the pleadings and arguments of counsel, the Court now denies the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The named Plaintiffs in this consolidated case are Darrin Lingle, Matthew Wagner, George Yakoubian, Crystal Markee, Stan Gor, Jason Braswell, Karen Gilbert and Elliot Musial. Each of these Plaintiffs purchased an Hitachi LCD Rear Projection Television (the "product") from an independent retailer with an alleged "defect in a major component called the "Optical Block." (Lingle v. Hitachi Home Electronics (America), Inc., et al., Case Number 08cv1746, First Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs allege the defect "was present upon delivery[,]" and that it "manifests itself over time, render[ing] the Televisions unsuitable for their principal and intended purpose, in that it causes video and color anomalies to be displayed on the screens of the Televisions, severely interfering with the program display." (Id.) Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian notified Hitachi of the problems they were having with their products, and requested that Hitachi repair the products pursuant to its warranty. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) However, Hitachi stated the products were out of warranty, and refused to make any repairs. (Id.) Plaintiffs also allege Defendants Hitachi Home Electronics (America), Inc., Hitachi America, Ltd., and Hitachi Ltd. knew about the defect, but failed to disclose it to the general public. (Id. ¶ 12.)

On September 23, 2008, Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging claims for (1) violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200, (2) violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17500, (3) violation of California Civil Code § 1750, (4) violations of other states' unfair and deceptive acts and practices laws, (5) violation of California Civil Code § 1792 (the "Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act"), (6) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 2301 (the "Magnuson-Moss Act"), (7) breach of express warranty and (8) breach of implied warranty. These Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on November 18, 2008, realleging the same claims for relief.

On December 12, 2008, Plaintiffs Markee and Gor filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging the same claims as Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian, with the exception of the breach of implied warranty claim. On August 24, 2010, Plaintiffs Braswell and Gilbert filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated alleging the same claims as Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian. Plaintiff Musial filed a complaint in Illinois state court alleging claims for (1) violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, (2) violation of the Magnuson-Moss Act, (3) breach of express warranty, (4) breach of implied warranty and (5) breach of contract. That case was removed to Illinois federal court, and subsequently transferred to and consolidated with the other three cases before this Court.

On August 27, 2010, Plaintiffs moved for certification of a nationwide class of persons who purchased certain make and model Hitachi products. The Court denied that motion on the ground Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the predominance requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3).

Specifically, the Court found it would be unconstitutional to apply California law to the claims of a nationwide class, and therefore, common issues of law did not predominate.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs now move for certification of a California-only class, i.e., a class consisting only of persons who purchased a television in California. Plaintiffs Crystal Markee and Stan Gor are the proposed representatives of this class. Although limiting the class to California consumers resolves the choice of law issues, it does not resolve the factual issues in this case, on which individual issues predominate.

A. Legal Standard

"The class action is 'an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.'" Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, ___U.S.___, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550 (2011) (citing Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 700-01 (1979)). To qualify for the exception to individual litigation, the party seeking class certification must provide facts sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Federal Rules of ...


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